Vince Lombardi Was Totally Gay For Gay Football Players Because Vince Lombardi Wasn’t A Jerk
When Michael Sam is drafted — it should be a matter of when not if, because if Sam liked lady bits, there would no question he would get drafted — Sam would be the first openly gay professional athlete in a major American team sport.
But Sam’s draft status is an open question because, after he came out, plenty of bravely unnamed NFL executives found their pantaloons in a twist over the prospect of Sam’s sexual orientation messing with the delicate chemistry in their manly man locker rooms.
Sam wouldn’t be the first known gay sportsballer, however. A handful of professional athletes came out of the closet after their careers ended. Many of them were known to be gay to their teammates and employers.
There was a gay baseball player named Glenn Burke in the 1970s. He was credited with inventing the high five. When the Dodgers realized he was gay, Al Campanis (yes, that Al Campanis, the one who discussed African-American buoyancy that one time on “Nightline”) offered Burke $75,000 to just marry a woman already. Burke didn’t and he was traded to Oakland.
But the best-known gay pioneer in professional sports has to be David Kopay, a journeyman NFL running back who retired in 1972 and publicly came out in 1975.
How did all those old-school footballers handle Kopay’s gayness being
rammed down their throats present in their locker rooms? You wouldn’t think a tough guy like, let’s say, Detroit Lions star Alex Karras would take kindly to a gay teammate. After all, it was a different time back then.
Kopay credits Lions teammate DT Alex Karras, a true “rock star” of the NFL that many know best in pop culture as the father from the ’80s sitcom Webster, as a major reason for his still being alive today.
“Alex knew I played well against the Lions as a 49er, and he figured out early on that something wasn’t right, that I was hurt. He supported me as a friend. Alex wasn’t gay of course, but he was a wonderful, intelligent, smart man. He was an individual.”
Kopay went on, “In 1968 – the year they filmed The Paper Lions, Alex was the biggest star around, for him, just keeping other asshole teammates from picking at me for not performing, not chasing women, he kept everybody at bay, he was a lifesaver. I didn’t get to talk about him near enough in (The David Kopay Story), but if it wasn’t for Alex and his friendship, I would not be on this planet today. I was struggling not only with my sexuality, but with football. My self-worth was down as a man, and as a football player. I was suicidal. With Alex’s support, it meant everything to me.”
Alex Karras went on to become an actor, playing Mongo in Blazing Saddles as well as Webster’s stepdad. Probably he was always a secret gay-loving Hollywood elitist, and being teammates with Kopay is probably what made Karras play gay in Victor/Victoria.
Vince Lombardi, on the other hand, was a guy who knew a thing or two about traditional values. Lombardi was a coaching icon. Old school to the core. A devout Catholic who went to church daily. No doubt, when Lombardi coached Kopay in Washington, he tried to set this confused young man straight.
Dave Kopay, the first former NFL player to come out, also played on those 1969 Redskins, and he says that while he never told Lombardi, he believes Lombardi knew not only that Kopay was gay, but that Kopay and another Redskins player, Jerry Smith, were in a romantic relationship.
“Lombardi protected and loved Jerry,” Kopay told O’Connor.
Lombardi’s brother Harold was gay, and when Harold died in July of 2011 he was survived by his partner of 41 years — meaning their relationship began just before Vince died in September of 1970. As noted by Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports, Vince knew Harold was gay and didn’t just believe in “tolerance” but believed strongly that discrimination against gay people was wrong, just as he was angered when he saw mistreatment of his black players, or discrimination against his fellow Italian-Americans.
Basically, all these clowns wailing about the gays ruining the NFL’s locker room naked man fun time are literally (literally) less progressive than the footballiest football coach to ever coach football. And that guy died almost 45 years ago.
You’d think sportswriters might include that tidbit in their think pieces about gay athletes and the manly essence of the locker room.